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Sustaining Agent Engagement with Continuous Feedback Through Gamification

Employees like feedback – formal and informal, personalized, meaningful feedback that will help them become more successful at their job. And it has to happen on a regular basis. The typical cadence of the annual and even semi-annual performance review just is not frequent enough for most employees, especially millennials. These types of reviews have another shortcoming. Supervisors often spend too much time discussing past accomplishments and issues that employees can no longer fix to influence their performance ratings for the current year.

So, what is the right cadence and type of feedback for employees, today?  According to a Forrester report, employees want continuous feedback. One solution that has gained popularity in recent years for its ability to provide continuous feedback to employees, particularly those in contact centers, is gamification. It uses game mechanics such as points, badges, leaderboards, rewards and recognition to motivate and engage agents to change behaviors, become more productive and improve business outcomes. Plus, gamification can be tailored to the needs of several employee groups, which makes it ideal for all generations of employees – from baby-ers and Generation Xers, to Millennials and the latest, Gen Zers.

Not only can gamification track an agent’s performance, it can emit signals to remind agents of desired behaviors when they need a little assistance, and reinforce an agent’s strengths by rewarding them for accomplishments such as hitting milestones or sharing best practices. In addition to tracking individual performance and attainment of simple goals that require just one action, gamification can also track attainment of more complex goals that require multiple actions by one agent or collaborative actions by an entire team.

Factor in skill competency when determining frequency of feedback through gamification

When designing the feedback component of gamification, you will want to consider the level of difficulty of the behavior you want your agents to emulate. If the task requires little effort and agents can complete it easily, they should receive feedback quickly. Conversely, when goals are more complex and will require collaboration among several team members, you might want to offer kudos for reaching milestones and save rewards and recognition for completion.

In other words, you want to motivate agents when the feedback and gamification programs are first introduced by acknowledging early successes without going overboard. Continuous feedback refers to an appropriate cadence, not an excessive amount.

Continuous feedback also provides many benefits to both employees and companies. Here are just a few.

Improves employee moraleGenerates confidence and trustEnergizes and motivatesBuilds community through collaborationAdjusts to market and company changesSustains employee engagement
Fair and unbiased feedback improves agent morale

Continuous feedback, especially feedback that is based on specific and consistent criteria and data, reduces bias. When your agents know with certainty that they are all being evaluated on the same scale, and that they are all receiving feedback on a regular basis, they are confident that they are receiving a fair appraisal which helps to improve their morale. This is the case with gamification.

Feedback generates confidence and trust

Leaving the ongoing daily feedback to gamification frees up supervisors for more meaningful weekly discussions with agents to ensure that they are on the same page. This type of communication gives both parties an opportunity to identify and resolve any issues, and air any differences of opinion or misunderstandings. That way there are no surprises at the end of the year.

It also provides time for additional coaching and leadership and other skill development. Doing so builds employee confidence and trust and leads to greater engagement.

Recognition is contagious

As part of the annual review process, employees rarely receive recognition. On the other hand, with a continuous feedback model, supervisors and team members have opportunities to recognize agent accomplishments right away. With gamification, recognition on leaderboards displayed on monitors throughout the contact center is just one of the many ways to recognize agent and team achievements in front of their peers. This can be very energizing and motivate them to achieve even great levels of performance.

Build community through collaboration

Earlier in this blog we talked about starting gamification with simple, single action tasks and over time leveling up to more sophisticated multi-action and multi-player games. In many cases, when doing so, agents will feel even greater satisfaction as they move along Maslow’s hierarchy of need from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation and reward.

The reason for this is that the more basic needs must be satisfied first before the higher levels such as esteem and self-actualization can be fulfilled. Also, with gamification, agents build on the skills they acquire at each level as they move on to the next. As they progress along the continuum, and the games start to require multiple tasks and collaboration with others, agents become more engaged and strengthen their sense of community and belonging. In addition, working with others brings a shared understanding of how everyone’s work fits in with the overall corporate goals and helps to achieve success for the entire organization. This contributes to a greater sense of pride and deeper motivation.

Another way to leverage gamification to encourage collaboration and build community is to track and reward social sharing and ideation. Integrating gamification with a community social business site and rewarding agents for posting new inquiries, answering questions and “liking” helpful content can accelerate adoption and usage.

Allows for adjustments to respond quickly to market and company changes

Even when you think you are doing a good job of keeping your eye on the market, things happen that you didn’t anticipate that can require you to change your strategy on a dime. A major competitor is acquired by another company, or you acquire another company. Your CEO leaves or a new VP of Sales is brought in and decides to change the structure of the entire sales organization. A product is introduced by one of your competitors with a technology that leapfrogs your offering and it will take you 18 months to catch up. In any given year, one or more of these events can occur, and they can shake the core of your employees, especially your contact center agents who field calls from customers, partners, vendors and others.

Communication is critical at these times. Frequent communication, encouragement, goal adjustment, training, coaching and feedback are essential. Employees need to first understand that there is a plan in place. They need to know that their jobs are secure and they need to know what they are supposed to tell people when they are asked about the changes.

This type of scenario causes additional problems for companies that do not have a continuous feedback strategy in place. When you only meet with employees once or twice a year to review goal achievement, it will be difficult to assess attainment when goals have shifted dramatically to respond to market or company changes.

Fortunately, gamification can help. Training modules can be gamified as well as new script language and other prompts to aid agents and instill confidence as they become familiar with the proper way to respond to questions and concerns callers have about the changes that have occurred.

Sustains employee engagement

Although there may not be a magic bullet to sustaining employee engagement, when a gamification solution is designed correctly, it comes remarkably close. Here are a few pointers.

  • Have a master plan, but start simply.
  • Link rewards to something that is meaningful to the agent – recognition among peers, financial reward, career growth.
  • Be sure your business benefits as well. Employees want to know that their work is moving the needle for the company, too.
  • Make updates often to keep things fresh.
  • Build in safeguards to avoid employees from gaming the system.
  • Select an internal champion or small group of champions.
  • Level up incrementally. As agents progress from one level to the next, it is important that you build in just the right amount of additional difficultly to challenge them. Too much and they will get frustrated, too little and they will get bored.
Continuous feedback drives continuous performance improvement

Heavy hitters such as Microsoft, Accenture, Goldman Sachs, Adobe, GE, Deloitte and others have established continuous performance feedback programs and announced lower turnover rates and improved productivity. By leveraging gamification to deliver much of the daily feedback to agents in a fun and compelling way, you get the additional benefits of sustainable motivation and engagement.

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